Five men, one a high-ranking columnist for the Duluth News-Tribune, were arrested Friday in what authorities described as an elaborate plot to alter votes for the Duluth Reader’s annual Best of the Northland awards. Police apprehended the suspects at 2:30am Friday in the Reader offices.
Three of the men were native-born Cubans and another was said to have trained Cuban exiles for guerrilla activity after the Bay of Pigs invasion. The fifth man was famed News-Tribune columnist Sam Cook, age 97, who has won the Reader’s “Best Columnist” award for the past 73 years.
There was no immediate explanation of why the suspects would want to alter the awards, which are essentially meaningless and don’t even help the winners get laid. Police chief Frank Willis said the only logical motive is Cook’s trophy lust.
“I guess he just has a massive ego that will never be fully satisfied by any amount of praise,” said Willis, speaking about Cook, not second place columnist Paul Ryan. “I’ll bet his mind is filled with all sorts of figmental rage. Every award loss and negative comment from a stranger on the internet just piles up inside him like crusty old turds, these inconsequential slights festering and building in his mind until he can’t take it anymore and wrongfully lashes out at everyone in the community through the crude jokes and unnecessary cursing that have now become standard fare in his childish, tiresome columns.
“Again, I’m talking about Sam Cook, not Paul Ryan,” added Willis. “I just want to make that clear. Paul Ryan would never do that. He’s totally awesome.”
Authorities say they likely wouldn’t have caught the suspects if not for another unrelated crime that occurred in the building at the same time. An elderly woman was trying to shove an envelope filled with her own poop through the mail slot in the Reader’s door. When she was unable to fit the envelope without feces splattering all over her hands, she kicked the door, breaking the glass and triggering the alarm. The woman, 40-year-old Denise Kempton of the Enger Park area, was released on bail.
When police ventured inside, they found the five men digging through paper ballots in the Reader office. They were each carrying bags filled with hand-written votes for Cook. The men were all wearing bizarre horse costumes and referring to each other as “Bronies”, which police suspect is a code name for this very sophisticated criminal operation. Thirty cans of Schlitz beer were also missing from the office fridge.
Police suspect Cook may have been holding vote altering Brony parties with his Communist friends for the past 12 years, spurring debate about whether the runner up should be crowned as best columnist. Paul Ryan, who has written a humor column for the Reader for over 12 years, has never won the top columnist award, despite his immense talent and incredibly pleasing fragrance. But the beloved columnist, often compared to Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen, was very humble and modest as always, handling the issue with the maturity and grace of a much handsomer man.
“I don’t believe Sam is capable of such a thing,” said Ryan, who doesn’t care about trivial indulgences like awards. “I call him Sam because I consider him a close personal friend. I stand by my friends, even when it’s clear that they’re terrible people who have committed a heinous act against the laws of both man and nature.”
It’s unclear whether Cook organized the break in, or if there were higher ranking officials coordinating the efforts.
“He’s not easy to break,” said Officer Mark Felt, who helped interrogate Cook. “Every time we asked him about the incident, he’d respond with some long, rambling story about a walk he took in the woods last week where the scent of something reminded him of the chilly mornings of his youth spent in the deep woods looking for arrowheads, and how the thought aroused a tear in his eye which he did not wipe away. He let the tear roll down his cheek freely, because the woods had earned that over time. Nature had earned both his melancholy and his pleasured bliss, and as that tear graced the earth, it became one with us all as it soaked back into the soil that had provided for our kin since the dawn of time, and would continue to provide for the endless generations to come.
“We couldn’t continue the questioning, because all of us were crying,” said Felt. “He touched our hearts that day. I almost don’t care if what he did was illegal. He’s a wonderful man and I love him.”
With Cook staying tight lipped, only time will tell if police will find further leads. However, employees of the Reader have been very vocal in their demands for justice.
“This is a travesty and an outrage!” said Paul Whyte, one of the only writers for the paper who isn’t an unpaid columnist. “Those thirty beers were mine! Are the cops going to get them back? Of course not. They’re not interested in the real harm that occurred here this week. First Ferguson, then Eric Garner and now my beer. Jeez louise. Sam Cook won’t be winning any more awards from us.”